GASSAN Ahadme’s brace and John Brayford’s header were not enough in the end as 10-man Burton Albion fell to defeat at Cambridge United.
Ahadme scored Burton’s fastest ever goal in the EFL after just 11 seconds but it proved in vain as a hat-trick from Sam Smith and a strike from substitute Liam O’Neil condemned the Brewers to a 4-3 defeat after Jonny Smith was sent off early in the match.
After last week's disappointing defeat to Port Vale, the Brewers came out the stronger team and with just 11 seconds on the clock they took the lead. AHADME won the initial header from a long ball which Jonny Smith crossed into the box. The ball deflected into the air and the Moroccan made no mistake with an instinctive header home.
Smith’s red card changed the game however - with the winger dismissed for an off-the-ball incident with just 10 minutes on the clock. From there the Brewers faced a mammoth task for the rest of the game to hold out for 80 minutes with 10 men against a charged-up Cambridge.
Smith's freekick went narrowly over the bar and Harvey Knibbs had a shot on the edge of the box that was well blocked by Brayford as the pressure ramped up. Harvey Knibbs’ cross rolled agonizingly across the six yard box but the ball was well marshalled away by John Brayford. The dangerous Shilow Tracey was a constant threat down the right and Adam May’s header off his cross from the left was a whisker away from the goal.
Eventually the pressure told and with 33 minutes on the clock Cambridge were level. Tracey cut inside again from the left and his pinpoint cross was guided into the far corner by SMITH.
The battling Brewers continued to carry a threat down the other end and against the odds they regained the lead just five minutes before the break. BRAYFORD, who scored six goals last season, opened his account with a bullet header from an out-swinging corner from the right by Terry Taylor.
United were almost gifted a goal in stoppage time as William Kokolo was caught napping on the edge of the area and it took some brave goalkeeping by Ben Garratt to palm away the rebound after saving the initial shot from Paul Digby.
After all of their grit and determination the 10 men took a lead into the break.
HALF-TIME: CAMBRIDGE UNITED 2-1 BURTON ALBION
The Yellows came racing out of the blocks in the second half and within eight minutes of the restart they equalized again. The ball fell to Adam May on the right hand side of the area and SMITH skillfully guided the ball home with his head.
The Brewers continued to battle away. Calum Butcher found Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on the left hand side of the area but his effort was deflected kindly into the arms of Mitov.
Sam Smith continued to be a nuisance to the Brewers and it took outstanding goalkeeping by Ben Garratt to tip his powerful shot from the edge of the area over the bar after a good ball down the left-hand channel. With an hour gone May’s acrobatic volley was met by the full body of Garratt after the ball fell kindly to him on the left wing.
Albion refused to lie down and with 67 minutes gone AHADME notched his second of the game. A short backpass from Jubril Okedina left Mitov in trouble and his clearance deflected off the striker and sent the away end into raptures.
The joy was short-lived as the home side found themselves level again for the third time in the match. SMITH added his third to complete a fine hat trick as he turned in a cross from the left hand side.
It was a frantic few minutes as both teams could easily have added to their respective scorelines. Ahadme’s header was narrowly off target and goal line clearances from Brayford and Sam Hughes kept the score at 3-3.
But with 80 minutes gone Cambridge took the lead for the first time in the match. A long ball was clipped forward, United striker Joe Ironside knocked it down and substitute Liam O’Neil fired home from 20 yards out.
The away side applied pressure of their own in the latter stages of the game but couldn’t find a way through. It was a cruel defeat after the depleted Brewers fought with every morsel they had but it wasn’t enough against a prolific Cambridge United.